Kolkata: The state government’s ambitious project of setting up an IVF (in vitro fertilisation) unit at Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGMER), SSKM Hospital has been stalled. The pilot project is in limbo for want of funds. This was touted as the first state-run IVF centre.
Planned in August 2014, the health department had roped in fertility expert Dr Gautam Khastagir to set up the unit. A part of the gyneacology department of SSKM was revamped and converted as the workstation for the clinic. Even though the equipment were in place, the project failed to take off.
Sources said a decision was taken to charge Rs 30,000 per IVF cycle when the project was planned. Later the government decided to make the treatment absolutely free. But it has not sanctioned any fund for costly medicines required for the process. “The space and manpower is ready. But how can the clinic start functioning without funds required for procuring medicines. The health department had decided to make the treatment free, but somebody has to sanction the funds in that case for the medicines,” said Dr Gautam Khstagir.
On an average, private IVF clinics in the city conduct anything between 250 and 300 IVF cycles each month. The cost of each IVF cycle in these clinics ranges between Rs one lakh and Rs 1.5 lakh making the procedure inaccessible to the economically weaker section of the society. In many cases, the patients need to undergo more than one IVF cycle in case the first attempt fails making the procedure costlier.
Dr Khastagir was entrusted by the state with the task of advising and supervising the setting up of the unit. The fertility expert was to offer his expertise and also support the unit with manpower from his own clinic – Bengal Infertility and Reproductive Therapy Hospital (BIRTH). He was supposed to train doctors and paramedics of SSKM hospital hands on at the proposed unit.
“From my personal experience, I come across hundreds of childless couples who cannot afford IVF treatment at private clinics. I got involved in this project as it would have provided affordable IVF solutions to childless couples who do not have money to get the procedure done at private facilities. But we have been waiting for almost 18 months now to see the light of the project,” said Kkastagir.
According to fertility experts, about 20% of couples who visit private IVF centres return without availing the service as they are unable to afford the cost. Currently, there are only a few IVF centres in government facilities, including the ones at the AIIMS, PGI Chandigarh and King George Medical College, Lucknow. The proposed unit at SSKM was supposed to start operation by 2015.
“Though the space for the IVF unit is ready, a few more things had to be worked out. Since the election is round the corner, all I can say for now is that we will take a call on the project only after the polls are over,” said Dr S K Bandyopadhyay, director of medical education.